Otter Creek Wilderness Area - Trail Running

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About

Summary

Whether you’re passing through bogs, over streams, or slogging uphill, Otter Creek’s intimidating terrain will challenge any serious trail runner.

Written by

Allison Pugh

Distance

45.0 miles

There are 12 trails that range from just under 1 mile to 9.8 miles, but you can easily combine them to make 9-mile to 26-mile loops.

Destination Distance From Downtown

116.0 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

Trails range from easy to difficult, and cover more than 45 miles of diverse terrain, including steep uphill and downhill sections.

Time To Complete

1 days

Seasonality

Spring, Summer, and Fall

Be prepared for sudden weather changes— streams and creeks can flash flood during heavy rain and can leave you stranded. Although some trails may be accessible during the winter months, it’s not recommended.

Dog Friendly

No

Fees Permits

No

Land Website

Otter Creek Wilderness

Review

Intro

Nestled in the high mountains of Tucker and Randolph counties in West Virginia, the Otter Creek Wilderness area covers 20,000 acres. Taking its name from Otter Creek, the wilderness area is home to second-growth timber, rhododendron, and a variety of lichens and mosses. There are 12 trails, great for running, that range in length from just under a mile to 11.8 miles with elevations ranging from 1,800 feet at the mouth of Otter Creek to 3,900 feet on McGowan Mountain.

What Makes It Great

The diversity of terrain and difficulty level make this a great spot for trail running. You can make your run as short or as long as you like and add in hill challenges along the way. Unlike the trails in the area’s state parks, the Otter Creek Wilderness trails are longer and more difficult. They are virtually untouched, and give runners an intense, technical workout. The trails in Otter Creek range from just under a mile to 11.8 miles, and can be combined for up to 26 miles, giving you a multitude of options.

The moderately difficult Otter Creek Trail is the most popular in the area, and is 11 miles long. It follows an abandoned logging railroad with several creek crossings, and connects to several other trails if you want to add more mileage.

Who is Going to Love It

Trail runners looking for a challenge will love it here, and it will definitely put intermediate and advanced runners to the test. While beginners may find the area intimidating, more experienced runners will be able to push their limits while enjoying the tranquility of Otter Creek.

Wildlife photographers and nature lovers will also appreciate this special spot. There are a few small waterfalls and tons of wildlife, like black bear, whitetail deer, wild turkey, grouse, snowshoe hare, cottontail rabbit, several species of birds, a variety of squirrels, and reptiles.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Otter Creek Wilderness is in the Cheat-Potomac Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest in Tucker and Randolph counties. You can park at trailheads and entrances. The gate on McGowan Mountain Road (FR 324) at the boundary of the Fernow Experimental Forest is closed between April 15 and August 15. Call the Cheat Ranger District at (304) 478-2000 for more information.

Trails aren’t blazed or signed, but there are a few rock cairns to mark them. There aren't any bridges at water crossings, and trails can often be muddy and wet. The weather can change suddenly, and streams and creeks can flash flood during heavy rain.

Hunting is permitted here, so wear high-visibility clothing. Don't set up camp within 200 feet of roads, streams, and trails, and pack out what you bring in.

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Location

Otter Creek Wilderness

Cheat-Potomac Ranger District
Parsons, West Virginia, 26287
39.096495, -79.680896

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